In the fight to reduce hunger and poverty around the world—part of the ambitious set of development targets known as the Millennium Development Goals—one country that really stands out for me is the West African nation of Ghana.
Ghana’s progress has been remarkable. Between 1990 and 2004, Ghana outperformed all countries globally in reducing hunger by 75 percent. It’s also making great strides to reduce the number of people living in poverty. In fact, Ghana is on track to become the first country in Africa to achieve the MDG goal for halving poverty and hunger from 1990 levels by 2015. That’s remarkable, especially when you consider the devastating drought, dwindling harvests, and rising poverty that Ghana experienced in the mid-1980s.
How did they do it? In Ghana, as in many parts of the developing world, the poorest people get their income by farming small plots of land. So finding ways to help these farmers produce more food and get it to market is a critical element in reducing poverty and hunger. That’s also the goal of the foundation’s agricultural development initiative, which we launched in 2006.
And that’s just what Ghana has done. During the past 25 years, Ghana’s increased government investments in agriculture have led to some amazing results. Ghana commits nearly 10 percent of its budget to improving agriculture, putting it among the top investors in the sector in Africa. It’s experienced steady growth in agricultural productivity, almost 5 percent a year since 1985, making it one of the world’s top performers in agricultural growth. A dramatic increase in cocoa production has helped to increase exports. And child malnutrition in Ghana has almost been cut in half since the end of the 1980s.
There is still work to be done in Ghana—only half of the land suitable for agriculture is currently under cultivation, and there are still complaints from farmers that the market for some crops is underdeveloped. But there is no disputing the fact that Ghana is on the right path: Just two decades ago, Ghana was a country that struggled to feed its own people; now it has ambitions to become the breadbasket for West Africa.
I invite you to take a look at this photo gallery—featuring the story of Ghanaian cocoa farmer Peter Owoahene Acheampong—on Ghana’s progress.